The Talking Heads made rules when they started out. It seems like a strange thing for a rock band to do, but it worked out for them. They are probably my favourite band – I think David Byrne is a genius (not just because he looks like Bill Nye, another hero of mine). Their rules were simple, things like:
No guitar solos.
Nobody duplicates anything that anyone else plays.
Use common language, not clichéd pop lyrics.
Its an idea I’ve always really liked, and so I set out to make a list of rules for my YouTube channel. I think and read a lot about science communication, and so I set out to make a list of rules that I think will allow me to make the most effective teaching videos that I can.
My 7 Science Video-Rules:
1) Must not be too easy to watch
2) The # of questions in the video must be > than the # of answers
3) Story time = good time.
4) <5 min
5) Make sure my viewers do not trust me.
6) Don’t tell viewers what to do
8 – new rule) Must be fun to make.
Why? The Reasoning for Each Rule:
1) Because more mental effort means greater learning. Leading with the misconceptions sort of fits in here too.
2) Figure it out yourself.
3) Because they are awesome (says Ira Glass)
4) This one is more of a goal than a rule, but I do think that the more I try to distill a message into just a few minutes, the tighter the message will become. Five minutes was the cutoff I set with my original (High School) channel, and I so I feel a bit attached to it.
5) Why? I argue: authority.
6) If you want to subscribe, you can decide that on your own. I might provide you with the link, but I am not going to try to order you to click it. I’m not here to herd you like a bunch of cattle. From all statistically relevant ways of looking at it, what viewers thought was my worst video was also the video that gained me the most subscribers, and it was also the only video which I told viewers to ’Subscribe to the Channel’.. so I don’t doubt this works, I just don’t want to do it. Maybe someday I’ll do it in an ironic way, because David Byrne said it’s okay and he’s an authority…
7) Because I wouldn’t want to bore us.
At time I am sure I will chisel away at these, like The Talking Heads did, but for now I’ll be doing my best to stick to the rules.
I stopped taking science half-way through High School. I wouldn’t take another science class for 5 years, and here I am now 10 years later doing my MSc. I often wonder how differently things could have gone in my life if I’d had a different academic experience in science at a younger age.
This is the story about the last class I took. I think there is a lesson here for any teacher or student, and I hope my experience can be useful to someone out there.